Village to get free to use cash machine
The village of Redbourn in Hertfordshire has only one cash machine and it charges £1.50 for every use, but now HSBC has now agreed to install a free to use machine after a campaign by staff at the local Citizens Advice Bureau.
Fee charging cash machines multiply
In 1999 virtually all cash machines were free to use, but now approximately 40 per cent of cash machines charge a fee for cash withdrawals. Fee-charging cash machines are predicted to outnumber free to use machines by the end of 2007.
The growth of fee-charging machines is happening at a time when the government has started paying pensions and benefits directly into bank accounts. With fee-charging machines charging up to £3.00 for a cash withdrawal and dominating in urban deprived and rural areas, the cost of accessing cash is largely passed on to those people who can least afford it.
A national campaign
When Citizens Advice launched its ATM Watch campaign to investigate fee-charging ATMs, St Albans CAB decided to join in. They were asked to evaluate the quality of the warning signs on ATMs that make a charge and to map the locations of both free and fee-charging ATMs in their area.
At the same time, Citizens Advice ran an online survey for members of the public. 7,500 people completed the survey which highlighted confusion over charges. Seventy three per cent of people said that additional signage would enable them to make a more informed decision about using a fee charging ATM. The survey also found that 20 per cent of people use a fee-charging cash machine at least once a week.
In July 2006 Citizens Advice published ‘Out of pocket’ which presented the main findings of the ATM Watch campaign and highlighted four key issues of concern:
- some people do not have a choice when it comes to using fee-charging ATMs
- the emergence of ‘fee-charging hot-spots’, like hospitals and universities
- when using a fee-charging ATM people are not well enough informed that they will be charged for the transaction or what it will be
- the impact of having to use a fee-charging machine on a regular basis
Citizens Advice was approached by HSBC who wanted to site free ATMs in areas which currently have no free machines. HSBC has committed to siting ATMs in at least 10 per cent of the ‘cash machine deserts’ identified by bureaux, assuming that suitable sites can be found. Redbourn is one of the sites already selected.
Karin Williams, of St Albans Citizens Advice Bureau, said:
"This is a real victory for the campaign and for the many people in Redbourn who will benefit. Many of our clients are on low incomes and having to pay to access their money adds to their money problems.
"We hope this will lead to a long-term commitment from all the banks to provide and keep free machines in all communities like Redbourn that have none."